In his new book, Bill Minutaglio goes In Search of the Blues BY STEVEN L DAVIS IN JANUARY 1976, Larry L. King was not yet rich and famous for writing The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, but he was widely regarded as the state’s leading journalist. King had written extensively for the Observer and Harper’s, and he was contributing to a new publication, Texas Monthly. King enjoyed working with TM’s young editor, William Broyles Jr., but he couldn’t help offering some advice. In a letter mailed Jan. 8, King told Broyles, “The Monthly’s one shortcoming, I think, has been a lack of covering ‘the other Texas’the poor, the blacks, the chicanos, etc. I do not mean to say that you should become a bleeding heart magazine, but it does appear to me that a vital part of what Texas constitutes is being missed there.” King’s note could have been sent to every major newspaper in the state. Few of the state’s media outlets paid any attention to the “other Texas.” Around the same time, a young reporter arrived in Abilene, fresh from New York City. Bill Minutaglio had grown up reading Langston Hughes. As a student at Columbia University, he had worked for the US. Agriculture Department, handing out vitamin-laden “super-doughnuts” to poor kids in Harlem. Minutaglio spent a couple of years in Abilene and then moved to newspapers in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. At each he confronted an ugly reality: Black Texans rarely made the news in their hometowns unless accused of a crime. \(Minutaglio also writes the regular “State of the Media” column for the Let’s consider the ramifications. Let’s say you’re a historian and you want to write a history of Texas in the 20th century. A primary source for historians is newspapers, which many still mistakenly consider models of “objectivity.” Powerful newspaper publishers dominated Texas cities for generations, and the official, establishment views reported in their pages didn’t just marginalize Texas’ African-American population; in many cases they were hostile to it. The proverbial trio of blind men did a better job of describing an elephant than Texas’ newspapers did at chronicling the African-American population. Minutaglio recognized that entire communities’ histories were being lost. Drawn to African-American heritage, he wanted to help preserve it. He went to barbecue joints, record stores, churches and blues clubs. He began walking neighborhoods, hanging out on front porches, and knocking on doors. He wasn’t always welcome, at least not at first, but his quiet, respectful persistence paid off. Before long, Minutaglio was getting the stories he sought published in The Dallas Morning News. He wrote about everything from the people who lived on “Congo Street” in Dallas to underappreciated
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